Photo courtesy Northern Essex Community College

Strategic Initiatives

Bridges to College for Adult Learners


Bridges to College supports adult college transition services that increase the number of low-income, underrepresented, entry-level adult workers who enter and succeed in postsecondary education.


Keith Connors
Director of Academic Affairs and Student Success
(617) 994-6911


2013 – Present



Related Data




Target Populations
  • Low-Income
  • Adult Learners
DHE Responsibilities
  • Access
  • Retention

Multiple Campuses

Related Initiatives



Initiated by the Massachusetts state legislature in 2013, the Bridges to College Program supports adult college transition services that increase the number of low-income, underrepresented, entry-level adult workers who enter and succeed in postsecondary education. Bridges to College funds programs that have achieved recognized success in bridging academic gaps of underserved adult learner populations, with this work leading to college entrance, retention, and success.

Seventeen percent of all Massachusetts residents aged 25–65 have some college credit but no degree. Most of these individuals are not currently enrolled in college. Many other adults aspire to jobs that require a college degree or certificate but are not yet ready for college-level work. Once enrolled or re-enrolled, adult students persist in their studies and earn credit at lower rates than younger students, most likely due to competing family and job related pressures. The Bridges to College Program seeks to address these issues and help adult students overcome obstacles that may stop them from completing a degree.

Eligible grant applicants are adult basic education providers, including local education agencies, community-based organizations, community colleges and correctional facilities. Grants are competitive, one-year grants and are not re-occurring.

FY18 Grantees

Jewish Vocational Services—$72,000

Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) is a non-sectarian, non-profit organization that has offered workforce development and education services to individuals with barriers to employment and advancement since 1938. Serving the Greater Boston area, its mission is to empower individuals from diverse communities to find employment and build careers, and to partner with employers to hire, develop and retain productive workforces.

JVS began Bridges to College and Careers in 2009 as a college transition program for adult learners, focusing on low-income adults, primarily persons of color and non-native English speakers. Program goals are to prepare adult learners for the rigor of college coursework and for employment in their field of study, accelerate their progress toward credential attainment, and support them through college matriculation, successful completion and job placement.

This proposal builds on the successful FY17 grant program, enrolling 30 students of which 75% are expected to matriculate into college.

Mount Wachusett Community College—$59,340

Mount Wachusett Community College will work in partnership with Worcester County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) to continue and expand upon its inmate college transition program at the Worcester County House of Corrections located in West Boylston.

This project will build upon prior success with a focus on developing an improved “handoff” between the prison and MWCC to assist more inmates to enter college post-release. This next phase of the project will serve 60 sentenced male inmates who are between 6 months to 2.5 years of release for college entry upon their release. Two tiers of service will be offered with 60 inmates participating in college and career readiness activities and up to 25 inmates qualifying to earn up to 12 college credits.

Northern Essex Community College—$75,900

Northern Essex Community College proposes to supplement adult bridge services to prepare low-income, entry-level adult workers and English language learners to enter college and attain a credential of degree resulting in employment in a high demand field.

This proposal builds on prior successes of the Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education program which informs participants of industry career pathways and employer requirements for higher education certificates and degrees as well as job specific knowledge, skills and abilities through regional labor market data. The project will serve 18-20 adult learners of which 80% are expected to enter post-secondary education or training.